Misconceptions About Sick Leave Credit

Since 1969 CSRS employees have been getting full credit for their sick leave in computing their pensions.  Changes within the last few years have allowed FERS employees to get half credit for their sick leave for retirements up through 12/31/13 and full credit thereafter.  Unused sick leave cannot be used to add to an employee’s length of service for the purpose of reaching retirement eligibility.  It will, however, add to the employee’s length of service for the purpose of computing their pension once they have reached retirement eligibility.

There are several misconceptions about how sick leave is credited for retirement purposes.  The most common one is that an individual must have their sick leave in even month increments in order for it to increase one’s length of service.  This is not true.

While it is true that only years and months (not days) of service are used for length of service purposes, the extra days are not dropped from the computation until sick leave is added to time actually worked.  The following example will help explain.

An employee’s length of service is determined by subtracting their retirement service computation date (SCD) from the date they retire.  Be aware that for some people the retirement SCD may be different from the leave accrual SCD that appears on an individual’s SF-50.  If you have any doubt as to your retirement SCD, consult with your benefits specialist, check your annual benefits statement or utilize your agency’s automated HR system (e.g., EBIS, etc.)

Year Month Day
Retirement Date 2012 12 31
SCD 1980 05 15
Length of Service 32 07 16

Sick leave is converted from hours to months and days of service and is then added to the computation.  OPM has developed a sick leave conversion chart.  An easy to access version of this chart is available at http://www.usgs.gov/humancapital/pb/sicklvconchart.html

Year Month Day
Length without S/L 32 07 16
S/L credit 08 21
Total length of service 33 04 07

At this point, the seven remaining days of service are dropped.  In the above example, once we have completed the math and dropped the excess days, the 8 months and 21 days of sick leave resulted in a 9 month increase in length of service.

The crediting of sick leave is covered in pre-retirement seminars.  All employees nearing retirement should take advantage of any pre-retirement training offered by their agency.

John Grobe’s latest book, The Answer Book on Your Federal Employee Benefits, has just been released by LRP Publications. The book is written in an easy to understand question and answer format and covers all areas of federal benefits from the perspective of an employee at various stages of their career. Order your copy at shoplrp.com.

© 2016 John Grobe. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from John Grobe.


About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a consulting firm that specializes in federal retirement and career transition issues. He is also affiliated with TSP Safety Net. John retired from federal service after 25 years of progressively more responsible human resources positions. He is the author of Understanding the Federal Retirement Systems and Career Transition: A Guide for Federal Employees, both published by the Federal Management Institute. Federal Career Experts provides pre-retirement seminars for a wide variety of federal agencies.

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  1. IHOG says:

    Is there a chart that goes beyond 2081 hours?  I believe I will have close to 2500 hours of sick leave at retirment.

  2. FarWestFed says:

    It is a return of pennies on the dollar compared to using the sick leave prior to separation.   As I understand it, a 30 year FERS employee, at age 60, will receive 1.1 % X average high three for each year of service.   An $80,000 employee then gets $880 for each year of service time.   So for example, in 2014,  1000 hours of sick leave will add approximately one half year of service time, worth $440 per year in your annuity.   Do the math.      Stay home when sick, spare the rest of us your illness. 

  3. Nufsed says:

    These calculations and the information is all well and good.  But the sick leave credit, even with balances of 2000 hours, adds very little to the annual pension.  Certainly not worth all the math computations.  It would be better to use the sick leave than to save it all up and get a few dollars more on the pension each year.  

  4. Snake says:

    I’m under the impression from the CSRS Handbook that to calculate the length of service (excluding the sick leave), you must first add a day to the retirement date and then subtract the SCD. In the example above, it’s a moot point because there’s 7 extra days left in the total length of service. However, try doing the math in the following example and see if you come up with the same result:
    Retirement date is 12/31/12. SCD is 8/28/88. This results in a length of service of 24 years, 4 months and 4 days. Sick leave balance on 12/31/12  will be 842 hours. This will add 4 months and 26 days to the length of service. (841 hours results in 4 months and 25 days exactly but the additional hour gives you an additional day because the CSRS Handbook says to round up to the next day). The total length of service should be 24 years 9 months 0 days (30 days convert to one month).  I’m trying to confirm this calculation is correct with Human Resources but haven’t heard back from them yet. Anyone come up with a different result?

    • really amused says:

      How are you able to retire with 24 yrs of service?  Early out approved or over 60 yrs of age?  That’s my first question to your post.

      • Snake says:

        Minimum age for retiring with 24 yrs of service is 60. Left that out only because I wanted to focus on computing Total Length of Service.

    • Snake says:

      Correction to my previous posting based on clarification I got from Human Resource for calculating the length of service. If the day you’re retiring on is the 31st of the month, e.g., 12/31/12, then you don’t add a day before subtracting your SCD. So the table in the Article that shows the length of service calculation is correct. Furthermore, the example I provided is incorrect…the length of service should be 24 years, 4 months and 3 days, which means 847 hrs of sick leave would be needed (converts to 4 months, 27 days) to end up with a Total length of service of 24 years, 9 months, 0 days. This is explained in Chapter 50 of the CSRS & FERS Handbook.

  5. Aac Ac4 says:

    How are hours of sick leave converted into months/days?

  6. HR Manager (Retired) says:

    Good information in particular the reminder to employees crediting sick leave differs for CSRS and FERS.

  7. OldRet says:

    Another very important thing to remember when using extra sick days is that a sick day is NOT 8 hours when used to compute service time. In the example provided above you have 7 excess days which are to be dropped. Don’t think that because you have 7 excess days that you can now take 7 eight hour days off charged to sick leave and still have 33 years and 4 months. A day is not 8 hours because when computing your service time you count EVERY day (weekends and holidays) so it is calculated by dividing the number of hours in the year by 365 which comes out to about 5.7 hours in a day. If you have 7 extra days then you have approximately 5.7 x 7 which equals about 40 hours (i.e. 5 days). Note this is not exact so always err on the side of having too much excess sick leave to be sure you don’t lose a month of service time. There is a sick leave hours to days conversion table available and when in doubt be sure to leave enough excess days so you don’t lose a month of service time. If you were to take 7 eight hour sick days off you would use 56 hours and your service time would be about 33 years, 3 months and 28 days and the 28 days would be dropped and you would lose a month of your service time.

    • Smcneil2 says:

      Yes!  Count the hours, not the days.  You know, for example, 2087 hours is one year and a month is 174 hours. You keep subtracting from whatever sick leave hours total you have until you reach the point where the remainder is less than 174 hours.  Or you can go to the OPM website that has a chart to convert unused sick leave to retirement credit time:


      But watch it.  If you have, say, 10 months of credits, that would be 1739 hours, not 1740.   Because a month works out to be 173.91 hours.

  8. Interested FERS says:

    If a FERS employee is retiring with MRA + 10 does the sick leave credit come into play or is the sick leave forfeited?

  9. Kragan says:

    Thanks John!

  10. Cordaryl Cook says:

    How does this work for those under FERS who are say 61.5 years old. If you have 8 months of leave would you get credited with the extra .1 calculation in your pension as if you worked to 62?

    • Georgia Duckworth says:

      Thank you, John.  I am CSRS and pretty much understand the system.  I t is always good to get your perspective as I plan to retire 1/3/13, after 32 years of government service and have some sick leave that will be left over.

    • P Curley says:

      I would say no, as this situation is analgous to the situation of allowing sick leave to be creditied to time in service to determine initial eligibility. It can’t. Since you actually have to be on the rolls until your earliest retirement date, it would seem that you also have to be on the rolls to reach the 1.1% eligibility date.  You would actually have to go out taking the sick leave to do this, and, you could only do that if you had an appropriate medical problem. Of course, as 0ne of my managers one said: “At that age, something will be wrong with all of us”.